Nov. 13, 2019

Nov. 13, 2019

Presidential message

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

As an academic institution, Creighton University is dedicated to delivering excellence in education and pursuing research and scholarship to advance new knowledge. As Jesuit and Catholic, our mission impels us to provide ethical perspectives and engage tools of discernment for dealing with an increasingly complex world.

Perhaps nothing is as complex – or as consequential – as global climate change.

I support our faculty, staff, students, Jesuits, and alumni who have been highly engaged in this critical issue, through academic and extracurricular programming, local and global outreach, research and scholarship, and a wide breadth of campus sustainability efforts. Creighton has recently intensified and sharpened our efforts and focus, and the allocation of resources, around sustainability.

Also, collectively, contributions around campus have not gone unnoticed or unheard. Throughout the course of a student’s time at Creighton, he or she will cultivate critical thinking, ethical perspective, empathy, the promotion of faith, service to others, and so much more. In our commitment to a more sustainable earth, and in particular a divestment strategy, many of our students have been passionately, and impressively, active.

There are compelling arguments on both sides of the divestment issue, as well as confusions, and we have decided at this time that implementing a policy of total divestment from fossil fuel companies as outlined in the recent nonbinding student referendum does not align with our goal of a properly diversified endowment, and could negatively impact Creighton and our students. It is important that the University follows a disciplined investment approach in its endowment, with a broad diversification strategy designed to achieve long-term returns.

This moment also provides an important opportunity for our entire campus community to further the essential dialogue around sustainability, responsible investing, and caring for our common home. To that end, I will host a campus forum exploring these and other issues the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. A diverse slate of faculty panelists has agreed to join the forum, and student representation will be welcome. I hope this forum will support ongoing University discernment — with participation from all of our students, faculty, and staff — in better understanding the realities of the climate crisis. For more information regarding the panelists and the forum, click here.

This forum, “Seeking Hope: Intentional and Ignatian Responses to the Global Climate Crisis,” will offer an interdisciplinary exploration of how individuals at Creighton, and Creighton as an institution, can keep responding to the climate crisis, recognizing that each of us, independently and collectively, bears responsibility for action.

Additionally, I have requested that our Sustainability Governance Committee, chaired by René Padilla, PhD, vice provost for Global Engagement, form a new workgroup of faculty, staff, and students to more routinely and intentionally address a range of sustainability topics, from reviewing investment guidelines and carbon neutrality goals to assessing our use of plastics on campus and our individual and institutional carbon footprints. This workgroup will be chaired by Dr. Padilla until we hire a new director of sustainability. A search committee of campus representatives has been tasked with identifying top candidates for that position, and I am hopeful that will we have a new director in place by January 2020.

If you would like to nominate an individual, or yourself, for this workgroup, please click here. In the next few days, I will invite members of our community to join this group.

I am also announcing today the creation of a new institute, the Common Home Project, within the Creighton Global Engagement Office. Not unlike the Kingfisher Institute, established in 2019, the Common Home Project will provide innovative and interdisciplinary programming for our campus community, doing so in this case around a vision to jointly shape the future of our planet. Embracing, in many situations, other Jesuit institutions around the world, the Common Home Project will develop key partnership hubs in each continent, with which Creighton faculty, staff, and students will work to engage the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals through internships, curricular offerings, collaborative research, and other scholarly endeavors. Work on this exciting initiative is already underway, and I look forward to sharing more updates regarding the Common Home Project as Dr. Padilla and his team continue to develop it in the coming weeks and months.

I also have asked the Investment Subcommittee of the Board of Trustees to evaluate and consider investments in companies developing alternative energy sources or technologies that reduce carbon emissions. It should be noted that many of the companies that would be divested are ones leading efforts in developing renewable energy alternatives. This review will happen at our next Board meeting.

The University will continue to vote shareholder proxies in favor of carbon-reduction resolutions and will pursue opportunities to partner with organizations that engage corporations on environmental issues, such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the national Jesuit Committee on Investment Responsibility, and others.

I am grateful for the varied efforts of so many here on campus to reduce our energy consumption and work toward our goal of carbon neutrality.

We have been steadily reducing our carbon footprint on campus through a variety of initiatives. Facilities Management continues to work with Optimized Systems, an outside partner that specializes in managing energy consumption, on implementation of various energy conservation initiatives, and HDR in Omaha is helping to develop an energy master plan for the University, both of which will help move us closer to our goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

Our multifaceted approach includes investing in more energy-efficient systems for lighting, heating and air conditioning, roofing, and windows; tuning up older buildings on campus to operate more efficiently; measuring and monitoring energy consumption more effectively through an online dashboard; replacing utility meters with more efficient “smart” meters; encouraging utility providers to increase their amount of renewable production; and purchasing renewable energy when feasible. These steps have a cascading impact, as we continue to look for other ways to be more sustainable.

In our classrooms, our degree programs in environmental science and sustainability are educating the next generation of leaders in this important field, and the new President’s Distinguished Curriculum Innovation and Pedagogical Research Grant offers opportunities for funded research in the area of sustainability.

As I stated last week, I commend our students and am very grateful for their concern, commitment, and passion in seeking solutions to the serious environmental challenges we face today. As a University community, we share a common set of goals regarding the future of our planet. I look forward to continuing these important conversations, and exploring the many ways our students, faculty, staff, alumni, community partners, and Board of Trustees can work together to care for our common home.

Sincerely,

Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD